« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
some convents, immediately above the box into which are directed to put your money, views of purgatory are painted in the most flaming colours, where people are seen in all the agonies of burning, raising their indignant eyes to those unmindful relations and acquaintances, who, rather than part with a little money, allow them to remain in those abodes of torment. One can hardly conceive how any mortal can pass such a picture without emptying his purse into the box, if, by so doing, he believed he could redeem, I will not say a human creature, but even a poor incorrigible dog, or vicious horse, from such a dreadful situation. As the Italians in general seem to have more sensibility than any people I am acquainted with, and as I see some, who cannot be supposed totally in want of money, pass by those pictures every day without putting a farthing into the box, I must impute this stinginess to a lack of faith rather than of sensibility. Such unmindful passengers are probably of the number of those who begin to suspect that the money of the living can be of little use to the dead. Being absolutely certain that it gives themselves much pain to part with it in this world, and doubtful whether it will have any efficacy in abridging the pains of their friends in the other, they hesitate for some time between the two risks, that of losing their own money, and that of allowing their neighbour's soul to continue in torture; and it would appear that those sceptics generally decide the dispute in favour of the money.
But in such a case as that which I have been describing, where a poor wretch is just going to be thrust by violence out of one world, and solicits a little money to secure him a tolerable reception in another, the passions of the spectators are too much agitated for cold reasoning, and the most niggardly sceptic throws his mite into the boxes of the compagnia della misericordia. Immediately after them came the malefactor himself, seated in a cart, with a capucin friar on each side of him. The hangman, with two assistants, dressed in scarlet jackets, walked by the cart. This procession having moved slowly
round the gallows, which was erected in the Piazza del Populo, the culprit descended from the cart, and was led to a house in the neighbourhood, attended by the two capucins. He remained there about half an hour, was confessed, and received absolution; after which he came out, exclaiming to the populace to join in prayers for his soul, and walked with a hurried pace to the gallows; the hangman and his assistants having hold of his arms, they supported him up the ladder, the unhappy man repeating prayers as fast as he could utter till he was turned off. He was not left a moment to himself. The executioner stepped from the ladder, and stood with a foot on each of his shoulders, supporting himself in that situation with his hands on the top of the gallows, the assistants at the same time pulling down the malefactor's legs, so that he must have died in an instant. The executioner, in a short time, slid to the ground along the dead body, as a sailor slides on a rope. They then removed the cloth which covered his face, and twirled the body round with great rapidity, as if their intention had been to divert the mob; who, however, did not show any disposition to be amused in that manner. The multitude beheld the scene with silent awe and compassion. During the time appointed by law for the body to hang, all the members of the procession, with the whole apparatus of torches, crucifixes, and capucins, went into a neighbouring church, at the corner of the Strada del Babbuino, and remained there till a mass was said for the soul of the deceased; and when that was concluded, they returned in procession to the gallows, with a coffin covered with black cloth. On their approach, the executioner, with his assistants, hastily retired among the crowd, and were no more allowed to come near the body. The condemned person having now paid the forfeit due to his crimes, was no longer considered as an object of hatred; his dead body was therefore rescued from the contaminating touch of those who are held by the populace in the greatest abhorrence. Two persons in masks, and with black gowns,
mounted the ladder and cut the rope, while others below, of the same society, received the body, and put it carefully into the coffin. An old woman then said, with an exalted voice, Adesso spero che l'anima sua sia in paradiso;' Now I hope his soul is in heaven;' and the multitude around seemed all inclined to hope the same.
The serious and compassionate manner in which the Roman populace beheld this execution, forms a presumption of the gentleness of their dispositions. The crimes of which this man had been guilty must naturally have rais'ed their indignation, and his profession had a tendency to increase and keep it up; for he was one of the sbirri, all of whom are held in the most perfect detestation by the common people; yet the moment they saw this object of their hatred in the character of a poor condemned man, about to suffer for his crimes, all their animosity ceased; no rancour was displayed, nor the least insult offered, which could disturb him in his last moments. They viewed him with the eyes of pity and forgiveness, and joined, with earnestness, in prayers for his future welfare.
The manner in which this man was put to death was, no doubt, uncommonly mild, when compared with the atrocity of his guilt; yet I am convinced, that the solemn circumstances which accompanied his execution, made a greater impression on the minds of the populace, and would as effectually deter them from the crimes for which he was condemned, as if he had been broken alive on the wheel, and the execution performed in a less solemn man
Convinced as I am that all horrid and refined cruelty in the execution of criminals is, at best, unnecessary, I never heard of any thing of that nature without horror and indignation. Other methods, no way connected with the sufferings of the prisoner, equally deter from the crime, and, in all other respects, have a better influence on the minds of the multitude. The procession described above, I plainly perceived, made a very deep impression. I thought I saw more people affected by it than I have
formerly observed among a much greater crowd, who were gathered to see a dozen or fourteen of their fellow-creatures dragged to the same death for housebreaking and highway robbery, mere venial offences, in comparison of what this Italian had perpetrated. The attendance of the capucins, the crucifixes, the society of misericordia, the ceremony' of confession, all have a tendency to strike the mind with awe, and keep up the belief of a future state; and when the multitude behold so many people employed, and so much pains taken, to save the soul of one of the most worthless of mankind, they must think, that* the saving of a soul is a matter of great importance, and therefore naturally infer, that the sooner they begin to take care of their own the better. But when criminals are carried to execution with little or no solemnity, amidst the shouts of an unconcerned rabble, who applaud them in proportion to the degree of indifference and impenitence they display, and consider the whole scene as a source of amusement; how can such exhibitions make any useful impression, or terrify the thoughtless and desperate from any wicked propensity? If there is a country in which great numbers of young inconsiderate creatures are, six or eight times every year, carried to execution in this tumultuous unaffecting manner, might not a stranger conclude, that the view of the legislature was to cut off guilty individuals in the least alarming way possible, that others might not be deterred from following their example?
THOSE who have a real pleasure in contemplating the remains of antique, and the noblest specimens of modern architecture, who are struck with the inimitable delicacy and expression of Greek sculpture, and wish to compare it with the most successful efforts of the moderns, and who have an unwearied admiration of the charms of painting, may, provided they have not more important avoca
tions elsewhere, employ a full year with satisfaction in this city.
What is called a regular course with an antiquarian, generally takes up about six weeks; employing three hours a-day, you may, in that time, visit all the churches, palaces, villas, and ruins, worth seeing, in or near Rome. But after having made this course, however distinctly every thing may have been explained by the antiquarian, if you do not visit the most interesting again and again, and reflect on them at more leisure, your labour will be of little use; for the objects are so various, and those you see on one day, so apt. to be effaced by, or confounded with, those you behold on another, that you must carry away a very faint and indistinct recollection of any. Many travellers have experienced the truth of this observation.
One young English gentleman, who happens not to be violently smitten with the charms of virtù, and scorns to affect what he does not feel, thought that two or three hours a-day, for a month or six weeks together, was rather too much time to bestow on a pursuit in which he felt no pleasure, and saw very little utility. The only advantage which, in his opinion, the greater part of us reaped from our six weeks tour, was, that we could say, we had seen a great many fine things which he had not seen. This was a superiority which he could not brook, and which he resolved we should not long enjoy. Being fully convinced that the business might be, with a little exertion, dispatched in a very short space of time, he prevailed on a proper person to attend him; ordered a post-chaise and four horses to be ready early in the morning, and driving through churches, palaces, villas, and ruins, with all possible expedition, he fairly saw, in two days, all that we had beheld during our crawling course of six weeks. I found afterwards, by the list he kept of what he had seen, that we had not the advantage of him in a single picture, or the most mutilated remnant of a statue.
I do not propose this young gentleman's plan, as the